150 years ago this past week, a letter (though dated April 13) from Charles J. Faulkner (he appears in a few of my blog posts from the past) appeared in the Charles Town, West Virginia newspaper, detailing his “connexion” with the Confederate army. At first I thought, perhaps, he was replying to those who doubted any serious service that he may have performed. In fact, the real matter was as to when he served, as it had a direct impact on whether or not he could practice law so soon after the war. In addition to his explanation, readers might also find it interesting to see, and understand, the nature of his association with Gen. T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Enjoy:
To the Public.
As some recent criticisms have attracted public attention to my connexion with the army of the Confederate States, and as several of my friends have expressed a wish that I would, over my own signature, present a distinct statement of that connexion, and of its termination, I avail myself of the present brief recess of the Jefferson Court to respond to their wishes. I could not have done so at an earlier moment without neglecting important interests of others confided to my safe keeping.
Upon my return in the latter part of December 1861, from a four months, confinement in the Northern prisons, in passing through Winchester to my home, I met with that remarkable man, Gen’l Thomas. J. Jackson. In the course of my brief interview with him, in the presence of Major Hawks, of Charlestown, I stated to him that there was a rumor in, circulation, that he would soon start upon an important military enterprise. The rumor to which I alluded related to a probable attack upon the federal forces then at Romney, supposed to be a 11,000 in number. I told him whilst in prison, I had beguiled my tedious hours by reading everything that I could lay my hands on touching the skirmishes and battles which had been fought between the two opposing armies: that it seemed to be almost incredible that men so little trained to war could fight as well as the papers described the conduct of the soldiers in the field – that I desired to be an eye fitness to one of these military movements that I might myself judge of the fidelity of these representations, and if it was as true as reported, that he contemplated a military enterprise shortly, I would, if agreeable to him, accompany it as a private citizen. He smiled but made no reply to the suggestion. On the following evening I received from Gen. Jackson the following letter, brought to me by Capt. Bitzer, of Clark:
Winchester, Va., December 27, 1801.
Hon. Chas. J. Faulkner –
If you can spare the time and take the trouble, I will regard it as a special favor to receive a call from you at your earliest convenience.
Please answer by the bearer. Remember me very kindly to Mrs. Faulkner.
Very truly yours,
T. J. JACKSON
In pursuance of this, request I proceeded to Winchester. Gen. Jackson, then inquired of me whether it would be agreeable to take a permanent position on his staff. 1 told him it would not. He then gave me to understand that a military movement was contemplated and ho would be pleased to have me accompany it. I returned to Martinsburg, and according to appointment joined him at Unger’s Cross Roads, in Morgan county, on the evening of the 2nd day of January, 1862. From that point the army took the direction of Hancock instead of Romney, as was generally anticipated. A sudden and terrific change in the weather produced a most disastrous arid-demoralizing influence upon the army. If he had ever contemplated an attack upon the Federal force at Romney. the idea was abandoned. 1 was with him about seven days, and parted from him at Unger’s. I here formed my first intimacy with Gen’l Jackson, ate at his table, occupied the same room, and enjoyed his constant society. In this expedition he complimented me with the title of Lt. Col., although I had no official relation to the army.
I next saw Gen. Jackson in September, 1862, subsequent to the battle of Sharpsburg, when he was encamped with his Division near Martinsburg. He then gave me to understand that Col. Paxton, his then Adjutant General, would be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, and he intimated his wish that I would accept the situation I gave him no encouragement to think that I would do so.
In November, 1862, having then just received his commission as Lieut. General, he addressed me the following letter:
November 14th, 1862.
Dear Colonel –
I regret to hear of your not being well, but hope that such will not continue long.
If agreeable to you, I will try to secure your appointment as my senior Adjutant General. What the rank is, I do not know; as I have not yet seen the law which determines the staff of a Lieutenant General, but that is the position which has been kept open for you, and is it desirable that my staff should be filled up, please let me know whether the arrangement will be agreeable to you.
I am, Colonel, very truly yours,
T. J. JACKSON. ”
COL. C.J. Faulkner.
Upon receipt of this I paid him a visit to his Head Quarters. In that interview he earnestly pressed upon me the acceptance of the position of his chief of staff. I stated frankly my objections to the position, and he sought to remove them. It was then he informed me that he had made no report of his battles since the affair at Kernstown, embracing the period of nearly a year, marked by the most active military operations – that he was pressed for reports by Gen. Lee, and by the Confederate Congress. He spoke of the efforts he had made to have them prepared – of his own disappointment, and of the pain and concern which these disappointments gave him – he said I could render him personally an important service in that matter, and he hoped I would not decline to do so. I left him with the assurance that I would accept the position and prepare his reports, and returned to Appomattox county, and he moved with his army towards Fredericksburg. About three weeks afterwards, on the 8th of December. I was taken with the small pox, and being advised by my physician, Dr. Hinkle, that it might not be safe for me to leave the house for some months, I wrote a letter to Gen. Jackson, declining the appointment.
I received from him in reply the following letter:
Caroline County, Va.
December 23, 1862.
Dear Colonel – I have received your letter declining the appointment on my staff. I appreciate your patriotic motives, but regret the necessity. I had hoped that it would have been my privilege to be associated with you as my chief staff officer during he remainder of the war. I have also had the pleasure of receiving the telegram of your improving health and hope that it soon will be restored – Trusting that your health may be such as will enable you soon to enter upon duty, I will not write to the War Department respecting your determination before 1st of January, and in the meantime should you feel justified by your improved health in deciding to serve in the Adjutant General’s department, please let me know.
Sincerely your friend,
T, J. JACKSON.
Col. J. J. Faulkner.
A few days afterwards I received another letter from him, which I cannot at this time lay my hands upon, informing me that he was in agreeable winter quarters at Moss Neck – that he could furnish me a comfortable room, where my health would not be endangered, and urging me to come to his Head Quarters as soon as I could safely travel. Having a high and increasing admiration “of the character of Gen, Jackson, and being personally deeply attached to him, I did not feel myself at liberty to resist the appeal; and although my health did not justify my travelling in my then condition, and at that inclement season of the year, I nevertheless started on the journey, and arrived at his Headquarters on the 2d of January, 1863. Upon my arrival there, I immediately commenced the preparation of his reports, embracing the battles of McDowell, Front Royal, Middletown, Newtown, Winchester, Harrisonburg. Port Republic in the Valley; the battles of Cold Harbor and Malvern Hill in the Peninsula; of Cedar Run, of Manassas
Junction, Bristoe Station, Groveton and Ox Hill or Chantilly, Harper’s Ferry, Sharps| burg, Shepherdstown and Fredericksburg; having them illustrated by accompanying maps, executed by Mr. Hoskiss [Hotchkiss], an engineer, I furnished the last report on the 23d of April, 1863, and left his Head Quarters for the county of Appomattox, on the day following. I there heard of the death of General Jackson, he having died on the 10th of May.
I will not encumber this communication by letters and other evidences of the appreciation, of Gen’l Jackson of the service which I personally rendered to him, but I will content myself with a single extract from the deposition of Dr. H. H. McGuire, taken in Winchester on the 4th of October, 1865, in some suits pending against me in the Berkeley court for damages growing out of the acts of the confederate soldiery. In the close of his deposition, he says:
“I know the deep sense of gratitude which Gen. Jackson felt and expressed for the service which Mr. Faulkner had personally rendered him in writing his reports. These sentiments I have heard the Gen’l express in strong language, not only at Head Quarters, but after the fatal wound and a short lime before he died.”
I proceeded in a day or two afterwards to Gen. Lee’s Head Quarters, to be satisfied that the reports which I had prepared had all reached him in safety. I here learned from Gen. Lee that two of the reports had not reached him. I tendered to Gen. Lee in person my resignation, informing him that my connexion with the army had grown out of my personal relations with Gen. Jackson, and would now cease with his death. He expressed his approval of my course, said that I would not be expected to discharge any further duties in connexion with the commission which I then held, but he would prefer that I would withhold the resignation for a few days, and devote that time to the recovery of the lost reports of Gen. Jackson. He gave the authority to proceed to Lexington, Virginia, North Carolina or any other points where I might find it necessary to trace them. One was found in Lexington, and the other at the residence of Mrs. Jackson, in North Carolina.
ln passing through Richmond in pursuit of these missing reports, I met with General Ewell, who informed me that the Northern Army of Virginia had been divided into three corps, and that he had been assigned to the command of the 2d corps. He invited me to accept the position of his chief of staff. I told him that 1 could not do so – that I had occupied that position towards Gen. Jackson from the strong personal feelings that existed between us – that whilst 1 had great confidence in his character, yet I must decline to give him any assurance that 1 would accept
Being called to Gen. Lee’s Head Quarters again in connexion with these missing reports, 1 there met with Gen Ewell again, who was encamped a few miles from him. I there learned confidentially from Gen. Ewell of his intended movement North, he remarking to me, if you will go with me, you will soon be at your home. I accordingly accompanied I him on his march to the Valley in the early part of June, 1863; was present at the capture of Winchester on the 15th day of that month, and about noon of that day at Mr. Rutherfords, three miles from Winchester, took my leave of Gen. Ewell and of the army. He was to have been at my mouse that night, but encamped about a mile or so North of the town. From there he sent me my resignation approved. The next day he continued his march to Pennsylvania. I remained at my home. From the date of that interview at Rutherfords, on the 15th of June, 1863, I regarded my connexion with the army as virtually and substantially terminated. Certain it is that I never exercised the functions of any office from that hour to the present moment.
From that time until the surrender of Gen. Lee on the 9th of April, 1865, 1 have lived in the most perfect and absolute retirement; free from all connexion with public affairs.
On the 25th of April of that year, I returned to my home. I had lost heavily by the war. My property in Berkeley, except my residence, was thoroughly devastated. 1 found myself deprived of all political privileges and some civil rights. I was not allowed to vote – to hold office – to sue in the courts of the State. These disabilities still exist. Suits to the amount of nearly $30,000 were brought against me for alleged liabilities for acts of confederate soldiers, and most of my prominent friends in this and the adjoining counties were sued in as large if not larger
Under such circumstances, it was very natural for me as a means of self-defence, and for the defence of my friends, to desire to return to the practice of my profession. I accordingly at the June term, 1865, made application to Judge Balch for permission to qualify at the bar. He said I could do so if I would take the oath prescribed by the act of 16th of November, 1863. I told him that was impossible, and I denied that the law was designed to embrace attorneys. He invited argument, and I addressed him at length at the same term. He made no decision upon the question at that term, and invited a further argument at the November term. I argued the question still more elaborately at the November term. At the close of that court he decided that I could not be allowed to qualify at the bar. I took the question before the Court of Appeals at Wheeling, in January, 1866. After a discussion which, extended through eight days, in which Wm. Ware Peck, of New York, was employed to oppose the motion; the Court decided that the law of the 16th of Nov. 1863, did not embrace attornies at law. The effect of this decision, brought to the attention of the Court almost exclusively at my own cost and labor, was at once to open the practice of the legal profession to every lawyer in this State without regard to his previous connexion with the war.
The question excited much interest at the Capitol of the State, and the attendance of the members of the Legislature was large throughout the discussion. The excitement to which the argument gave rise extended to that body, and shortly, after the decision was announced by the Court of Appeals, a law was passed prescribing an attorneys oath, but limiting its provisions to the 20th of June, 1863, the day from which the State of West Virginia dates its existence.
The question then presented itself to me – can I resume my practice under the law as it is now passed? Can I with truth take the oath as it is now modified and changed as to time?
The oath touches no man’s sentiments, sympathies or opinions. It involves no regrets or repentance for the past. It presents the simple inquiry, have you done any of the acts then prohibited, since the 20th of June, 1863?
Having never at any period, of the war, held any civil, political or diplomatic office or appointment, under either the State Government of Virginia, or of the Confederate States; having terminated all practical and substantial connexion with the army on the 15th of June, 1863; never having since that day exercised any of the functions of any office, civil or military; and having lived during the remainder of the conflict in a state of seclusion and retirement free from all connexion, with public affairs, I was aware of nothing that could or should interpose any difficulty in my resumption of the practice of my profession.
It is true, the system of retrospective test oaths is abhorrent to my feelings, and indefensible upon principle. They were I believe unknown to the world until the late war. No precedent, so far as my memory serves me, can be found for them in ancient or modern times. Still, objectionable as they are in principle and policy, that need not deter persons from exercising their undoubted rights in the face of them, who can do so with a safe conscience.
It is also true that these-retrospective oaths, especially in a time of universal uncharitableness and distrust, such as the present, are capable of being made the subject of great annoyance to those who take them. Some misconceived remark – some incident imperfectly understood, may by unfeeling malignity be raked up from the rubbish of the last three years to wound the sensibilities, and impugn the honor of a gentleman. The matter, if examined, may be found unimportant in itself, or susceptible of the clearest explanation, yet the arrow of the detainer, or perhaps the bill of the Grand Jury, may be speeded on its way to wound and to torture. There are thousands in this State who can honestly and conscientiously take the test voter’s oath, who shrink from the exercise of the right of suffrage under the apprehension that some evil disposed person may pervert or fabricate something to the disturbance of their peace, and thus, the elective franchise is discouraged, and the true sentiment of the country is suppressed. For my own part, I do not permit such specters to deter me from the performance of what I regard my right or duty. Strong in the integrity of my conscience – I shall meet all such phantoms, and dispose of them as they rise before me.
The attack which has been made upon me in the “Spirit of Jefferson,” is a striking illustration of the injustice which is done by these mere partial views of a transaction. It was charged that I entered Martinsburg in 1864, with Gen’l Early’s army in uniform. The uniform is a dress peculiar to officers and soldiers, and the impression sought to be made upon the public mind was, that I formed part of its military organization. That material part of the statement is now withdrawn, and the writer now proclaims that he can prove that I went from Bunker’s Hill to Martinsburg with a portion of the army. Well, if he had only said what no one would have questioned or denied, that I, as a private citizen, had not only once, but three times in 1864, availed myself of the advance of Early’s army, to visit my home, he would have said no more than what has generally known here, and there could have been no objection to the statement in that form. The wrong to in me consisted in stating, not that I had visited my home as a private citizen, under the advance of the Confederate army, but in using language calculated to convey the idea that I formed a part of that army myself. If the writer did not intend that impression upon the public mind, his whole allusion to that incident is without sense or meaning.
Again, it was stated in the same paper that 1 had in 1864 made application to Lt. Gen’l Ewell, for a position on his staff. The gist of the charge, here, consisted in my having made the application to Gen’l Ewell. In other words it would have subjected me to the imputation of having sought office. Now that is also withdrawn, and it is now said that l failed to accept because such acceptance would interfere with Con’l Smead. This is a total abandonment of the only point material in the allegation.
That Lt. Gen’l Ewell did in the winter of 1864, make application to me, (not I to him) to become the Inspector General of his Corps, is true, and as Dr. Hunter McGuire, the eminent Medical Director of the corps, was selected by Gen’l Ewell as the person through whom the application was addressed to me, it is proper that that gentleman should speak for himself.\
Richmond City, Va.
April 10, 1866.
It is within mv personal knowledge that Lieut. Gen’l Ewell desired Mr. Charles J. Faulkner to accept a position on his staff as Inspector General, in the winter of 1864. Gen’l Ewell addressed a letter to Mr. Faulkner offering him the position, but received no answer. At the Gen’l’s request, I wrote to Mr. Faulkner, and in Gen’l Ewell’s name urged him to accept the place – informing him that Gen’l Ewell was anxious to see him. Mr. Faulkner did visit him, dined with him and remained there a few hours. I can say with confidence, from my intimate relations to, and connection with the effort to get Mr. Faulkner on Gen’l Ewell’s staff in 1864, that no application was made by Mr. Faulkner to Gen’l Ewell for the position, but on the contrary, the application was made upon the part of Gen’l Ewell to him, to get him to take it. It is well known that Mr. Faulkner did not fill the place, or perform any of the duties of the Inspector General.
(“late) Medical Director, 2od Corps, A N.V.
But I sicken at the dissection of these wanton and unfeeling displays of levity and uncharitableness. Many incidents have doubtless transpired in the last three years, that imperfectly reported and understood, might require explanation, but when examined they will be found either unimportant in themselves, or susceptible of the clearest and most satisfactory explanation.
The gross and unprovoked attack made upon me in the Spirit of Jefferson very naturally excited the indignation of my son. In being made the bearer of a letter from me to the editor to ascertain the responsible author of the attack, he chose when the author was made known, to regard the attack made upon my honor as equally an attack upon his, and to make of it a personal affair with him. – His right and privilege to do so will be questioned by no man who recognizes the common instincts of our nature, or acknowledges allegiance to the laws and usages of society. – Prepared myself at all times to repel outrage and to vindicate my own wrongs, nevertheless I should be reluctant to discourage that sentiment in a son which teaches him that the honor of his parents is his own honor. That position he has thought proper to take. He has so far borne himself without reproach, and so long as the personal affair stands as it does at present, nothing remains for me but simply to present such a distinct statement of my connexion with the facts as may remove all error or misconception from the public mind.
CHAS. J. FAULKNER
April 13, 1866